Book Review: By the Book by Julia Sonneborn
“He must be wondering how anyone could still be so foolishly loyal to a two-hundred-year-old book.”
Another great Jane Austen retelling. Julia Sonneborn's By the Book is a modern retelling of Persuasion. Anne Corey is a professor of nineteenth century women’s literature at Fairfax College in Southern California. When the new president at Fairfax turns out to be her ex-fiance, Adam Martinez, Anne’s already chaotic life is thrown even more off balance. Anne is desperate to get published so she can get tenure. Her father is having health issues, and she and her older sister Lauren decide to move him into an assisted living facility in Fairfax. On top of all of that stress, she does not need or want to think about Adam's reemergence in her life.
Anne is a beloved professor, but her book proposal keeps getting rejected by publishing houses, and she is really worried about losing her job. Luckily, she does have her best friend Larry around to keep her spirits up. When Anne finally sees Adam for the first time at a faculty mixer, he acts very formally and polite, which hurts Anne more than she thought seeing him would. But luckily for her, distraction comes in the form of Rick Chasen, a very popular author who is the new writer-in-residence at Fairfax. While Anne and Rick strike up a relationship, she keeps running into Adam, who seems to be dating Tiffany from Fairfax's development office. Even though they are both seeing other people, Anne cannot keep from remembering their time together and wondering if she made the right decision to call off their engagement.
By the Book is one of the better Austen retellings I have read, because it pulled loosely from Persuasion, but Sonneborn modernized the story by giving Anne more depth and another love interest. I also adored Larry’s character as the best friend and coworker, who also happens to strike up an affair with a well-known Hollywood actor. By adding modern details to the classic retelling, Sonneborn allows the reader to embrace the story as is, and not just as a retelling.
I have said before that I love Captain Wentworth, so I was excited to read this modern take on Wentworth. Adam did not disappoint. A sensitive soul who never got over his first love and has a dog? I’m sold. I love how even though he still loved Anne, he never got in the way of letting her make her own decisions. I also love how the only thing Anne kept from their relationship in college was the copy of Persuasion Adam gave to her. His inscription echoes the words that Wentworth wrote in his letter to Anne Elliot, “I have loved none but you.” I was a sucker for that when I read Persuasion for the first time years ago, when I reread it last year, and again in By the Book.
If you are looking for a fun, light read and enjoy Jane Austen, By the Book is definitely for you. Even if you haven’t read Persuasion, I think anyone could enjoy this book. It is a great modern retelling. I give it 4 stars!
What other classic retellings do you like?